Since 1998, Intel has been a sponsor of the 70 year old Science Talent Search, a competitive science fair that draws the best and brightest teenagers to compete for a top prize of $100,000. This year Sara Volz, a 17 year old from Colorado Springs, claimed the prize after winning with her efficient algae-based biofuel lab.
Sara Volz chose to study whether or not algae can become an economically viable form of biofuel, and she conducted her experiments and research in her bedroom.
Volz chose algae because it can be used as a sustainable fuel, thanks to special oil it produces. Since the algae can keep producing the biofuel, it is completely sustainable. Volz was determined to discern which organisms were producing the biggest amounts of fuel, and she wanted to increase output from single sources.
Determined to follow her experiment through to fruition, Volz slept in tandem with the light cycle that her algae needed in order to grow. She killed off the algae that were producing small amounts of oil by using the pesticide sethoxydim. This in turn allowed the organisms with the highest yield to thrive. Volz’s demonstrated that her process can produce algae-based biofuel more efficiently and may serve as an inspiration for companies trying to produce commercially viable biofuel.
The Science Talent Search has a long list of successful alumni. Since its inception, seven participants have won the Nobel Prize and 11 have won MacArthur Foundation Genius grants.
30 finalists received a monetary scholarship. Third place was $50,000, second place was $75,000, and first place was $100,000.